Running in the Shadows for Hillary Clinton
I’ve always found politics fascinating. My mother spent her career working in Housing and Urban Development and Redevelopment Agencies all over California. Growing up, I used to love going to city council meetings to listen and watch her operate within the local government. In junior high, I remember loving an assignment where we had to write out the amendments of the Constitution and then paraphrase our understanding of each. In high school, I participated in the Model U.N. and studied how countries would advance their agendas, protect their systems of government, and work toward world peace. I was the president of the Amnesty International club and wrote letters to heads of state on behalf of human rights. In college, I voraciously studied political science and loved learning in hindsight how our own government has learned, stumbled, and progressed.
Needless to say, this presidential primary has stoked that fire of political science in me and given me reason to do more reading and research than I’ve made time for in a long while. So much about how things have played out so far — from the chess game that is the Republican Primary to the long, slow spiral that has been the Democratic Primary — has intrigued, excited, disturbed, and perplexed me.
Most abhorrent to me has been the bizarrely bitter treatment of Hillary Rodham Clinton; truly, an off-the-charts and out-of-proportion lack of respect or regard for an incredibly intelligent, credentialed, and compassionate woman who also happens to be the most qualified person to have run for the office of the President of the United States in decades. All while she has maintained a growing lead in a race that grows more contentious the more she succeeds.
Back in April of 2015, when everything was just winding up, I was happy when Clinton threw her hat in the ring. I’d always greatly admired her, though I had at some early point in 2008 swung my support behind Obama. When Bernie Sanders entered this year’s race, I was pleasantly surprised. I was aware of his long-standing tenure in the Senate and shared many of his platforms. Like most, I quickly accepted his surprising jump into the Democratic Party and found myself in a similar predicament to the one I had experienced in 2008; given two strong Democratic candidates with similar viewpoints, at some point I’d have to choose.
I really liked that early Bernie of 2015. For the most part, I liked what he stood for, and I valued the respect and acknowledgement it appeared that he and Clinton showed each other. It contrasted so obviously from the circus that was the other primary race. Sanders and Clinton had voted the same most of their shared time in Congress, and they mutually agreed to run clean campaigns against each other. So civil! For a time, I was on the fence; for a short time, I was on his side of it. But it seemed a corner was turned very quickly, and an angry, repetitive undercurrent was growing in Sanders’ campaign and with his more die-hard followers that became disturbing and pointed. The more I learned, the more things started not to add up, and like many others, I hopped firmly back over the fence.
A lot has happened since then. The Republican Primary has run its course (or has it?), and the Democratic Primary has spun off in a disappointingly divisive direction none of us could have predicted. Very quickly, red flags sprang up, and things weren’t so civil.
I couldn’t ignore it anymore when, last month, I attended the now-famous Hillary rally in east Los Angeles. I was lucky to get in as a volunteer, as thousands of people stood in that line for hours and couldn’t attend. The rally was infiltrated by many protestors from the Sanders campaign, both inside and outside of the gym. They disrupted the rally and caused such a stir inside that the speech was cut short. The children standing next to me were in tears as screaming protestors were ushered passed them. When I exited the gym, I saw a coronation line of screaming protestors, some with fake-blood poured over their heads. I turned to another volunteer and asked if those were Trump supporters. She said no, they were with Bernie. It was the only way out, so I walked through. People got in my face and screamed, “Fuck you, bitch!” and called me a “Shill!” and a “Sell-out!” I kept thinking, “Me?! Katherine Griffin? My parents lived in a chicken coop when I was born, I lived in my car for a year to make my first film, and I once attempted to ride a horse cross-country... You don’t know me.” But I just looked on in awe.
The amazing thing is that every single person in that rally, including the elderly and very small children, had to walk through those people. They screamed obscenities and ripped up a child’s sign that had just been signed by Hillary. I was truly in shock. These were liberals?! Up until that day, I had only felt the ire of the hard-core Bernie Sanders’ supporter online, never in person. Up until that day, I thought #feelthebern was a cool slogan; I hadn’t realized it was also a threat.
The next day, Sanders defended the actions of those supporters as exercising their freedom of speech and did the same the next week after the altercations in Nevada. That was the final straw for me. He had already lost me when the tenor of his campaign veered sharply from the clean campaign he’d promised, when he spoke poorly of President Obama, when he continually failed to provide solid plans for implementing his platforms, when he ironically dismissed an entire portion of the country and its people while rooting his campaign on economic reform, and when it became clear that he continually blamed any loss on a so-called rigged system. I’d long since grown tired of him raging against the “establishment” he’s been an active member of for over 35 years.
I wanted to share more about this experience at the time, but I feared the backlash online. Online harassment had started growing exponentially, and just when I felt I had no way to discuss the issues or express my point of view, I was invited by a friend to join a secret Hillary-supporters group on Facebook. Then I was invited to two more. I suddenly found there was an entire sea of people — tens of thousands in each group — that had joined these groups as a safe haven. We all found comfort and community in the shadows.
Since then, I have periodically shared positive things about HRC on Facebook but have refrained from getting too political on my page. I truly respect that we each have our passions, and that’s what’s so great about our political system. We get to voice those passions with our votes. I didn’t want to stir the pot, and I have no desire to sway anyone from following their gut or their convictions if their mind is firmly made up. However, I decided to write this today, as Tuesday’s California primary is incredibly important, and I felt my input might be of use to anyone who is still undecided. It has made an impression on me how often I’ve spoken with people who aren’t sure whom they’ll vote for, saying they “don’t really like Hillary” and they “don’t know why.” To me, this is fascinating and scary, as one obvious explanation for it could be that the GOP machine that has cycled and recycled lies and false allegations about Hillary for decades has done its job. And I do feel that having stayed quiet so long on social media, along with so many others of the millions that support Hillary, has distorted the breadth of her popularity.
It goes without saying that not all Sanders supporters are like the ones at that rally. These are all really good people who want the same things that all Democrats want. Yet, it has become increasingly interesting to me that I rarely meet Sanders supporters who speak highly of any aspect of Hillary Clinton — especially because, I never got the feeling they started off as polarized against her last year. It’s been an unfamiliar, uncomfortable experience not to be able to discuss the election with fellow liberals without tension errupting a lot of the time. I don’t understand how they could all despise her so much, when these two candidates essentially have so much in common. Perhaps it’s because so much of Sanders’ strategy is brilliant psychological play, and it’s been alarmingly successful. Cast yourself as the underdog, and everyone will root for you when you’re down. Cast yourself as the victim of a rigged system, and it will substantiate the need for a revolution at any price.
I happen to feel we are smack dab in the middle of a revolution. It’s already happening, and this is what it looks like. It’s a little messy. The Affordable Care Act may not be the end-all be-all of universal healthcare, but it’s certainly a major step in the right direction already helping millions of people and a continuation of Hillary’s Universal Healthcare proposal in 2007. Overturning Citizens United, signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, fighting for the rights of veterans and all human beings, financially opening community college for everyone, etc.: I feel this is what marching in a revolution looks like, and I feel Hillary Clinton has the grit, the experience, the backing, and the plans to keep moving that momentum forward.
No candidate is perfect. Hillary Clinton is not perfect. But, I admire how she’s grown and evolved over the many decades of her career. As Mohammad Ali said, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” I believe Hillary has always moved forward, and her reach has continually gotten wider.
I will be voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday with pride and admiration for everything she has fought for over her long career, how she stands for every group of people in this country, minority and majority. I don’t simply support her because I think she’s the best candidate to take on and beat Trump. I support her whole-heartedly.